Tag Archives: craft

Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning

This weekend, I went to the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh. Among other things, this gothic skyscraper contains 29 nationality rooms–each of these rooms is decorated intricately in the design of a nation. The first 19 were built between 1938 and 1957, with ten built since 1987. The Turkish and the Swiss classrooms were dedicated in 2012, and several more are planned. If you are in Pittsburgh and have any interest in craft or design, I can’t recommend visiting enough.

To visit the classrooms, you can check out a key at the desk, or take a tour with a guide. We rented a key. Visiting each room felt like a treasure hunt; each room was so different, and full of intense detail. Each room had special walls, windows, ceilings, chairs, lecterns, and chalkboards. Even the light switches and doors were in style. Many contain intricate wood or stone carvings, or genuine artifacts. Most were designed by architects of the country.

You can learn more on the University of Pittsburgh website about the nationality rooms. This page allows you to virtually tour each room.

The Chinese nationality room.

The Chinese nationality room, dedicated in 1939.

The Czechoslovak room, dedicated in 1939. This room contains a letter from the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk, to the students of the University of Pittsburgh.

The Czechoslovak room, dedicated in 1939, 8 days before the Germans invaded in World War 2. This room contains a letter from the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk, to the students of the University of Pittsburgh. His son, Jan, spoke at the dedication of the room, foreseeing trouble in the future. Page 4 of this document details the interesting connection between Czechoslovakia and Pittsburgh.

The Hungarian room was dedicated in 1939.

The Hungarian room was dedicated in 1939.

The Lithuanian room, dedicated in 1940. The walls are woven from linen in the "The Path of the Birds" design. Between the angular, abstract carvings and the painting and the walls, this was one of my favorite rooms.

The Lithuanian room, dedicated in 1940. The walls are woven from linen in the “The Path of the Birds” design. Between the angular, abstract carvings and the painting and the walls, this was one of my favorite rooms.

A detail from the Romanian room, dedicated in 1943. The style of this mural on the back wall reminded me of the opening of Beauty and the Beast.

A detail from the Romanian room, dedicated in 1943. The style of this mural on the back wall reminded me of the opening of Beauty and the Beast.

The Swedish room, dedicated in 1938.

The Swedish room, dedicated in 1938.

The Yugoslav room, dedicated in 1939. The carving in this room, called "notch carving" was simply amazing.

The Yugoslav room, dedicated in 1939. The carving in this room, called “notch carving”, was simply amazing.

The cathedral of learning, exterior.

The cathedral of learning, exterior.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

A little bookbinding

I really enjoy bookbinding from time to time, especially now that technical writing occupies the bulk of my time. It’s refreshing to complete something and see its completeness. It can be hard to feel holistic satisfaction from writing; there’s always one more thing to fix. Below are some photos of my recent projects.

The first two are books I donated to my local writing club, WriterHouse, for a charity raffle. The purple and grey book is a perfect-bound notebook with a bone clasp; it contains linen textured paper. The dusky red book has exposed linen tape to allow for a more flexible spine. It contains a slightly warmer-colored linen textured paper. I made a similar book for myself a few months ago–having something beautiful to take notes in is a great incentive for me.

The third book is a copy of my novel draft to send to a friend who until now has been reading from a pdf. I used a red poppy patterned paper for the endpapers–I love the pattern but it’s a slick paper that can be hard to keep flat. I was pleased with how it turned out. The book’s cover is black imitation leather.

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Upon Book Binding- Getting started and some useful things

Book binding is pretty simple. I do not mean it is necessarily easy or fast, but that you do not need much equipment or knowledge to get started. I think when I first started binding (not much more than a year ago) that this knowledge was a big surprise to me. So, if you are interested in trying your hand at binding, take heart!

Most of what I have learned came from three sources: observation, YouTube videos (such as this one on the coptic stitch style), and this nice book on book craft. With the help of the library, this info is all free.

I once imagined that bookbinding required extensive tools. It is true that the books themselves take certain special materials (you can’t fake nice paper, for example), but the tools required for putting them together is dead simple. I use four g-clamps and a couple well-bound oversize books, shown below. Every book I have ever made was with these four clamps and these two books. Very soon I will be making myself some new presses according to this tutorial, except that I intend to use cutting boards instead of fiberboard.

The only truly essential materials are strong thread (beading thread or linen thread works well), paper, an awl, a cutting board, a cutting implement, book board, and copious quantities of elmer’s glue. I like to order my decorative papers and cloths from Hollanders, and most other supplies like book board, elmer’s glue, and linen thread from Amazon.

The first few times I made books, they were not great looking. There were two primary reasons for this: 1) I did not let the glue dry sufficiently before moving to the next step. Then when I did the next step, the unset material would wrinkle, bubble or tear, and 2) Some papers are really unforgiving and will bubble and wrinkle very easily. Copy paper for example is not designed to be absorptive, and thus takes some skill to handle. I recommend starting with drawing papers or high cotton content papers. These papers will not buckle with too much glue or bubble with too little.

Below are four books I did in the first six months of learning. You can’t see here, but all of them have some little wrinkle or foible here or there. Each was still really exciting; I still had made books! I hope this little discussion is helpful to anyone who is interested, or getting started. I find joy in every book I put together, sometimes to an extent that seems strange. For more pics (of more recent efforts), or if you are interested in my books, check out my Etsy store.